Persuasion: 1971

Persuasion, 1971 Filmed in 1971, Persuasion was the first of the "old" BBC Austen films (though by no means the BBC’s first Austen adaptation, it is the first available on film.) The script, written by Julian Mitchell (Elizabeth R, Inspector Morse) is at times almost painfully true to the book, while at others, as in the case of "The Letter", it deviates most jarringly. Directed by Howard Baker (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1986) it contains many scenes cut from the later version (Mrs. Smith’s account of Mr. Elliot’s perfidy, Mr. Elliot’s elopement, "Poor Dick") and a few invented ones. With a run time of nearly four hours, this film certainly has the time to develop the story and characters that most modern adaptations lack. Persuasion1 (or P1 as it is known to fans) may be one of the most controversial films in Austen history. Those who love it do so unabashed- those who don’t are perhaps even more vocal. There are many reasons this film is disparaged. Many complain about the obviously ‘60’s inspired hairstyles("...what is it about Anne's hair?! It gives new meaning to the term "Big Hair!"*)Ann Firbank and costume color choices- a few of the orange and green combinations are quite distracting. (Has a period film ever been so dated?) Some find the characters personally irritating ("...don't you wonder how ANYONE could even consider this Louisa Musgrove as a possible wife? She is by far the most annoying character I've come across in any Austen adaptation.*) One author even complained about the use of scenes where "Anne is forced to confide her secrets in Lady Russell . . . in order to make her feelings clear to the audience." Most criticism, however, stems from how they handled the last few scenes. Interestingly Sony’s 1995 version repeated the same mistakes. Though exteriors were filmed on location in Lyme and Bath, it is obvious that this adaptation was produced on a fraction of what is now spent on television mini-series. However, once you get over the obvious flaws (different types of film used for indoor and outdoor shooting, rooms that are quite apparently television sets) it is easy to get caught up in the beauty of Austen’s storytelling. An engaging (for the most part) cast with a tremendous amount of talent adds to it’s charm. In one of my favorite scenes Captain Wentworth (Bryan Marshall) runs into Anne Elliot (Ann Firbank) for the first time after breaking off his flirtation with Miss Musgrove. The tension and nervous desire to please are practically palpable. Other fine performances are given by Basil Dignam (Sir Walter Elliot), Valerie Gearon (Elizabeth Elliot) and perhaps most surprisingly by Paul Chapman (Captain Benwick) who now plays the slightly daft orthodontist Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen.

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